Virginia Commonwealth University’s men's basketball team find themselves in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA championship tournament. Since there always seems to be a double-digit seed to reach this stage (10 Florida State and 12 Richmond join VCU in the Southwest Regional), it is not necessarily surprising that they have advanced.
This is especially the case when you consider that VCU played in last Wednesday’s First Four play-in game, beating Southern California 59-46 to advance to the opening 2nd round. What?
While the NCAA tournament seems to be in the midst of a massive restructuring of the former 64-team field, there is no doubt that VCU has benefited from the momentum of their first round victory, thus prompting me to wonder whether playing in the first round is an advantage or disadvantage.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that playing the least amount of games possible is the ideal situation, and this is logically true. However, I’m pretty confident that Georgetown would have been better prepared had they played, and won, a meaningful game in the same manner as VCU.
There is something to be said for gaining momentum through successful repetition, while gaining confidence before taking the main stage that is the Big Dance. Of course, USC may feel differently, but there is no denying the fact that the slippery slope known as rest vs. rust can either swallow a team whole or catapult a squad to heights they may not have considered possible just a week ago.
Hopefully, VCU can ride this wave and find themselves the likeliest of the unlikeliest to advance to the Final Four. This is why we watch this tournament.
And it doesn’t hurt that I had Georgetown in my Final Four.
Carmelo Anthony recently suggested that the New York Knicks will need time to make things work correctly. This is no surprise, as we have seen how long the Miami Heat have taken to mesh after adding powerful new ingredients to their championship recipe.
With Amare Stoudemire, the Knicks have one of the best scoring duos throughout the league. The problem is that these scorers cannot pass the ball with the same ease as a Dwyane Wade or Russell Westbrook or LeBron James. The problem is compounded when you realize there is only one basketball on the court. This is why Chauncey Billups is such an integral part of New York’s success.
The Knicks have the opportunity to use the remaining regular-season as a glorified training camp, since they are locks to make the playoffs but will undoubtedly face a team that will be favored against them.
While the Knicks are a mediocre 7-7 since trading for their second superstar, the Heat went 9-8 to start the season, prompting similar criticism that currently faces the team from the Big Apple. But New York will have close to 30 games under their belt with their current crew when the second season rolls around, where they will be lucky to avoid the likes of Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee- teams that have beaten these new Knicks, including twice against cellar dweller Cleveland.
This team should not be ignored.
The NCAA tournament will resume Thursday when the Sweet 16 gets underway in four different locations across the country, marking the second of three de facto final fours for whichever teams do advance to the Final Four in Houston.
This means that every remaining team has won at least two straight games, which means there are sixteen college basketball teams that believe they can win the NBA Finals. There are no more surprises; every team is a legitimate threat.
While the first weekend showcases every team, David or goliath, and the Final Four weekend will produce our champion, it is this weekend that makes this tournament so sweet. Sixteen times so.